Constantine the Great

Flavius Valerius Constantinus was a well-known emperor, and was remembered for many things. Constantine ruled the empire from 306 A.

D. to the year 337 A.D. Constantine is most famous for being the first Christian emperor, ending persecution against Christians, and allowing Christianity to become the primary religion of the Roman empire. He was born in the town of Naissus, Moesia, with his actual birth name of Flavius Valerius Constantinus. His father was Flavius Constantius, who was an officer in the Roman army and a native of Moesia, and one of the guards of Emperor Aurelian.

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His mother was Helena, who was a Bithynian Greek. He rarely spent time with his father, and later his father left his mother, Helena, to marry Diocletian’s co-emperor, Maximian’s daughter, Theodora. Diocletian, then once again divided the empire and his father was appointed to serve as emperor in one of the further sub-divided areas. The other sub-emperor was Galerius, whose part was later to come. On March 1, Constantius was promoted to Caesar, and that meant that Constantine would yet to be the heir. Constantine lived in Diocletian’s court, where he received a formal education, around both pagan and Christian cultures.

Instead of Constantine and Maxentius (Maximian’s son) being successors to the throne of Diocletian, they were ignored and Constantius and Galerius were appointed to the positions of Augusti, as well as Severus and Maximinus II being appointed to the positions of Caesar. Galerius made several attempts on Constantine’s life, and so desperately he escaped with his father. His father then passed away on July 25, 306, which then after, Constantine assumed the position his father had, when he sent Galerius a portrait of himself in the robes of an Augustus. Galerius then named him Caesar, because Galerius denied the claims that there would be war. Now Constantine’s share of the Roman Empire consisted of Gaul, Britain, and Spain, and so he commanded a massive army.

The Franks invaded Gaul once, but he drove them back and captured two of the kings, who were fed to the animals of the amphitheater that was situated in Trier. Constantine had a tolerant policy to Christians, and even banned persecutions against Christians. This was a big thing because before, no other emperor had ever done such a thing, as Christians were seen as a threat to Roman life, and therefore were treated cruelly. Constantine ended the cruelty towards them, and so he became revered among the Christians. Maxentius became jealous of Constantine’s authority and of the position he had just received, so he chose to seize the position of emperor, which led to a conflict.

Galerius sent Severus with his army to fight against Maxentius, but the army defected when they chose to join Maxentius’s side, because they had served Maxentius’s father, Maximian. Maximian, chose to end the conflict by going to Constantine and telling him that he would marry his daughter, Fausta to him and elevate Constantine to the Augustan rank, if he chose to help Maxentius in his cause in Italy and bring the old family alliance back together. Constantine agreed, but did not choose to help Maxentius in his cause in Italy. He instead attacked the Germanic tribes, and so a council was held, where Constantine was demoted to the rank of Caesar, although he chose to continue to display himself, as if he was not demoted, on coins. Licinius, one of Galerius’s old companions, became the Augustus of the West, but Maximinus Daia, nephew of Galerius, was angry because Licinius was promoted, so Galerius tried to solve the problem by calling both Constantine and Maximinus “Sons of the Augusti”.

However, this did not solve anything. After all these events, Maximian became angry, because he had no power and at Arles, where he was sent to defend against attacks by Maxentius, he lied and announced that Constantine was dead, so he dressed himself in the purple robes that only the emperor wore, and took part of Constantine’s army, through promises of donations to soldiers. Most of the army chose to remain loyal to Constantine and Constantine left his campaign against the barbarians and pursued Maximian. When he caught Maximian, he allowed him to hang himself, and this cause Maxentius to try and avenge his father. Through campaigns of war against Maxentius, Constantine was able to push and keep and move forward to the ultimate target at Rome. He met Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, where he was outnumbered two to one, but was told in a dream before the battle, that if he wore the cross on his shield, he would achieve victory.

He won the battle, and Maxentius died when all his troops accidentally, while fleeing, pushed him into the Tiber and ended up drowning. Constantine later fought against Licinius, and executed his son and him, and after that, this made him the sole emperor of the Roman emperor. Constantine built his capital at the Greek City of Byzantium and renamed it “New Rome”, but in his honor, the citizens renamed Constantinople and it became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. That is why he is known as the founder of the Eastern Roman Empire. He also issued the Edict of Milan, which removed any persecutions against the Christians. He made new rules, such as not allowing people to own Christian slaves, and became the first Christian Emperor, for no other emperor before had believed in Christianity.

He made the primary religion of the Roman Empire Christianity, which was important, because before the religion followed the Roman Pantheon. Constantine led small campaigns against other barbarians such as the Goths, and planned to attack Persia, but he could begin his assault, because he fell sick before he could start. He also ordered the executions of his son, Crispus, and his wife, Fausta, and issued damnatio memoriae on them, when you remove all information on them. Before he died, Constantine ordered Baptism be done on him, as he wanted to die a Christian and removing his sins from before. He died on 22 May 337, and his three sons succeeded him, who were Constans, Constantine II, Constantius II. Constantine was known for many things, mainly assisting the Christians and ending the many persecutions that were held against them every day of their life.

He led many campaigns against the barbarians and founded the City of Constantinople, which was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. He was the first Christian Emperor, and made the sole religion of the Roman Empire Christianity. Constantine will forever be known into history, for the many things he had accomplished.